Measuring Oil and Water in Extraction Streams

CSI: Mildred Lake.

Learn More Richard Paproski,
Research Chemist

Richard Paproski, Research Chemist

If oil sands sleuthing improves with knowledge, then Richard Paproski, holding a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta (class of 2007), is quickly becoming an ace analyst. Although counted among the younger generation of Syncrude researchers, he’s no rookie flatfoot: in 2000 he spent a year with Syncrude as an undergraduate intern. Later, his thesis (with funding from Syncrude and NSERC) had a definite oil sands twist and innovative solution. “From the beginning,” Richard says, “I was very impressed with how much there is to learn at Syncrude, how complex the industry is, and how much of a difference you can make as just one person in such a large industry.”


Coker Reactor Optimization

It’s like heart surgery, only this heart is the size of a train engine.

Learn More Larry Hackman,
Project Leader (Retired)

Larry Hackman, Project Leader (Retired)

Larry holds undergraduate and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering, and has been innovating at Syncrude for 29 years. In addition to his coker optimization research, Larry worked on coker reliability—keeping the units running as long as possible.


Data From Sensors

Inventing tools to measure things that have never been measured before.

Learn More Gary Anthieren,

Gary Anthieren, Associate—Chemical

Gary is a chemical engineer, holding undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Alberta. Beginning in 2003 he worked for Syncrude as a contractor through the U. of A. and came aboard on a permanent basis in 2006. “I spend about half my time in the research building working on advanced modelling and analysis,” Gary says, explaining the things he likes about his job. “And the rest I'm working hands-on in the field with the techs. I help bridge the gap between what’s needed on site and what research is doing and try to direct it both ways.”



Unsnarling a traffic jam of billions.

Learn More Robert Siy,
Senior Research Associate

Robert Siy, Senior Research Associate

Robert joined Syncrude in 1981 and holds a Masters and PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Ottawa. He has helped Syncrude make significant technological advances in many areas over the years—his recent work (with colleagues Owen Neiman and Jon Spence) on enhanced bitumen recovery with the Jameson Downcomer, for example—and finds great reward in the identification of challenges and the development of applied solutions to the highest standards of his knowledge, training, and profession.


Aeration Downpipe

Here’s another million barrel idea.

Learn More Owen Neiman,
Senior Associate (Retired)

Owen Neiman, Senior Associate (Retired)

Owen started at Syncrude in 1979 at the original Research Centre in Edmonton before becoming a contact engineer in extraction, and now back to Research and Development as a Technology Development engineer. Though the ongoing challenge of further shortening the time between concept and commercialization remains, he extols the wisdom of the closer organic linkages today between the research and the development functions.


Extreme Materials

Using advanced materials to solve problems that have never been tackled before.

Learn More Soon Moon,
Research Engineer

Soon Moon, Research Engineer

Soon holds a PhD in polymer engineering and joined Syncrude in 2008. The oil sands business is a relatively new experience with a lot of new things to learn, he says, but there “are some areas where I can bring new ideas.” He notes that non-metallics materials are used in other industries, but conditions in the oil sands are unique: “We have more challenging slurry conditions than anywhere else in the mining industry.”


Sandhill Fen Pilot

Coaxing oil out of sand is only half the challenge. We also coax sand back into the land.

Learn More Carla Wytrykush,
Environmental Scientist

Carla Wytrykush, Environmental Scientist

Carla completed both her B.Sc. (Botany-Zoology joint major in Ecology) and M.Sc. (Entomology) at the University of Manitoba. Carla's M.Sc. research involved investigating the successional effects of spruce budworm management on moths, carabid beetles and vegetation in the Manitoba boreal forest. Based in Windsor, Ontario, she began a Ph.D thesis titled "Diversity and ecosystem processes and properties in wetland communities: the effects of ecosystem stressors and reclamation challenges". Since January 2008, Carla has been employed as an ecologist with Syncrude, where the Sandhill Fen Watershed research project is her primary focus.


Water Capping of Fluid Fine Tails

Navigating new frontiers in aquatic reclamation.

Learn More Samantha Tavener,
Environmental Scientist

Samantha Tavener, Environmental Scientist

“We’re integrating the landscapes all around so that, within a diversity of sustainable landforms, nothing is out of context,” Samantha, who joined Syncrude in 2010, holds a cell biotechnology degree and a Masters in immunology. She was formerly program coordinator with the Environmental Reclamation Research Group of the Canadian Oilsands Network on Research and Development.



Programming a computer to see the invisible.

Learn More Mark Polak,
Research Associate

Mark Polak, Research Associate

All of Mark’s degrees were earned at the University of Alberta. He holds a B.Sc. in computer engineering, a masters in electrical engineering, and a PhD in computing science. He started work on DirtTV at the university and, because he gets a “kick” out of discerning information from images, joined Syncrude in 2008, in part, so that he could continue that work. “In the oil sands,” he says, comparing the industry to mainstream computing where only huge advances in processing power get noticed, “you just need to improve things a little bit and suddenly you have a measurable impact that a lot of people care about.”


Heat Up Front

Less energy in, more oil out and a smaller environmental footprint. Just another patent for Syncrude.

Learn More Jon Spence,
Senior Associate

Jon Spence, Senior Associate

Jon holds a Masters in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alberta and celebrated his 25th year at Syncrude in 2010. A recent milestone: with Syncrude colleagues George Cymerman, Samson Ng, and Robert Siy, his is one of four names on a patent for Improved Lower Energy Process for Extraction of Bitumen from Oil Sand—or Heat Up Front. “Syncrude is a great place to work,” he says, “because you can come up with solutions to real-world problems, try them out, and see them built in the plant. That’s really rewarding for an engineer.”


LC-Finer Catalyst Improvement

A true test of genius is getting more from less.

Learn More Craig McKnight,
Senior Associate

Craig McKnight, Senior Associate

Craig holds a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and a Masters of Applied Science, both from Queen’s University. He’s one of the key brains behind Syncrude’s 2006 Upgrader Expansion and an American Chemical Society Hero of Chemistry for his work as part of the team that developed a process to remove sulphur from gasoline. He’s been with Syncrude since 1987. “We get the best people in the world to help us with our problems and that’s pretty cool,” he says. “The world is open to us.”


Smart Embedded Monitoring System, Condition-Based Maintenance

We’re teaching equipment how to talk to humans.

Learn More Khaled Obaia,
Project Leader, Condition-Based Monitoring (CBM)

Khaled Obaia, Project Leader, Condition-Based Monitoring (CBM)

Khaled finished his PhD at the University of Alberta in 1991 and began working in the mine maintenance area of Syncrude the same year. There, his team’s redesign of crusher teeth was successful enough to be incorporated as the new standard by the vendor in later models. He moved into Research 10 years later and appreciates the focus of his work on “tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”

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Latest news

Syncrude’s support for university research totals $6 million

Abraham Gesner2

A rich history

The oil sands industry’s history is colourful, exciting, and above all, formative.